The Water Resources Division coordinates the local, state, and federal water resource management programs and projects undertaken in Olmsted County. The following services were established to improve and preserve Olmsted County's water resources.
- Coordinates and implements the County Water Management Plan and the Comprehensive Watershed Management Plans for the Root, Greater Zumbro and Mississippi River – Winona, La Crescent (WinLaC) Watersheds
- Coordinates water quality monitoring for:
- Private well owners in Southeast Minnesota
- County groundwater, rivers/streams, and lake monitoring networks
- Supports the Environmental Management Team and Environmental Commission
- Manages the Chester Heights Sanitary Sewer District
Greater Zumbro River Watershed Management Plan
In 2018, the Zumbro River watershed was awarded a planning grant by the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) for the One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) program. The goal of 1W1P is to align local water planning on major watershed boundaries with state strategies towards prioritized, targeted, and measurable implementation plans.
The planning area for the Zumbro River 1W1P also includes the Mississippi River Lake Pepin (MRLP) Watershed in Goodhue and Wabasha Counties for a combined total drainage area of 1,058,967 acres. This Partnership which includes the counties and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) of Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Dodge, and Olmsted, along with the Bear Valley Watershed District and the City of Rochester, have entered into a Memorandum of Agreement for the purpose of developing a watershed plan.
The process is locally lead through a Policy Committee comprised of one elected official from each of the 13 Local Government Units within the watershed. It will involve a broad range of stakeholders throughout the process including the use of an Advisory Committee and public meetings. The resulting plan will address the most significant threats to our water resources and an implementation strategy that provides the greatest benefit to the watershed.
The Watershed Alliance for the Greater Zumbro River Policy Committee released the draft comprehensive watershed management plan for 60-day review on May 3rd, 2021. The draft plan is available below for public comment through July 3rd. Please submit any comments before 5 PM July 3rd, 2021, and direct inquiries to: Caitlin Brady - Olmsted County Soil & Water Conservation District 2122 Campus Drive SE, Suite 200 Rochester, MN 55904 by phone 507-328-7070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A public hearing on the Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan will be held in August 2021. Additional information will be distributed when plans are finalized.
The following documents consist of various elements including tests, tables, graphs, etc. To view them or if you need assistance interpreting them, please contact Olmsted County Public Works at 507-328-7070.
Citizen participation is vital to create a successful and meaningful water plan for our area. The Zumbro One Watershed, One Plan Partnership received input via a survey from residents to inform development of a watershed plan to guide water and natural resources management over the next 10 years.
Zumbro 1W1P Public Kickoff Event
Project Update Newsletters
The committee meets at 9:00 AM on the 2nd Thursday of each month at People's Energy Cooperative in Oronoco.
Notice: Due to the Covid-19 Health Emergency all meetings are held virtually.
Root River Comprehensive Watershed Plan
The Root River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan was approved by the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources in December 2016. It was adopted be all 13 local government unit partners in the watershed area, including Olmsted County and Olmsted SWCD. The six-county watershed planning area includes those portions of Dodge, Olmsted, Winona, Houston, Fillmore, and Mower counties that drain to the Root River, the MN Portion of the Upper Iowa River Watershed, and the Mississippi-Reno Watershed in Houston County.
The four top priorities in the watershed plan include Drinking water supplies, Rivers and Streams, Landowner Engagement in Water Resource Issues, and Livability.
View the map of partner projects that have been completed with Watershed Based Implementation Funding.
Mississippi River - Winona/La Crescent (WinLaC) One Watershed One Plan (1W1P)
In 2020, the Mississippi River-Winona/La Crescent (WinLac) watershed was awarded a planning grant by the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) for the One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) program.
The WinLac planning area includes the Whitewater River Watershed, the largest sub-watershed of the Plan area that falls on the eastern side of Olmsted County. It also includes tributaries that flow directly to the Mississippi River in the Winona and La Crescent areas. The Partnership for this planning effort includes the counties and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) of Houston, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona, along with the Stockton-Rollingstone-Minnesota City Watershed District and the City of Winona.
Olmsted County is a member of the Whitewater Watershed Joint Powers Board which focuses on improving water quality, reducing sedimentation and flooding, and improving habitat for all plants and animals. Learn more at whitewaterwatershed.org
Olmsted County Water Management Plan
The Water Resources Division is responsible for administering the implementation of the County's Comprehensive Water Management Plan. Olmsted County's Comprehensive Water Management Plan constructs a ten-year framework of goals, objectives, and implementation strategies that will reduce, prevent, minimize, and mitigate degradation of our county's surface and groundwater through 2023 (103A.43, Minnesota Statutes). The 10-year plan identifies a comprehensive list of 23 water management objectives with 92 specific actions estimated to cost nearly $15M. State and federal grants for plan implementation typically require a match of 25 to 50%. The County’s Water Management Plan will be phased out with the adoption of Comprehensive Watershed Management Plans in the Root, Greater Zumbro, and Mississippi River Winona-La Crescent (WinLac) watersheds.
Private Wells and Groundwater
Programs and Projects
Well Sealing and Aquifer Characterization Below the Jordan Aquifer in the Rochester Metropolitan Area
Protecting groundwater aquifers in Olmsted County is critical as the community continues to experience high growth. Currently, there are no municipal supply wells solely in the aquifers beneath the Jordan in Olmsted County. Olmsted County is partnering with Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) on this project to research sustainable future use of aquifers below the Jordan aquifer in the greater Rochester area. Grant funds will be utilized to seal an inactive municipal well in Rochester that interconnects many aquifers below the Jordan aquifer. RPU can further leverage the sealing of the well to install a multi-well nest to obtain data on the deeper aquifers. The multi-well nest will be used to obtain data on the deep aquifers to assess flow, quantities, and vulnerabilities to contamination. Funding through the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Clean Water Fund, has been dedicated to seal the well. Funding from other sources is available to install the well nest and conduct monitoring.
Oronoco Dam Removal and Zumbro River Restoration Project
Construction Dates: 2017 - July 2018
Lake Shady was a reservoir on the Zumbro River created in 1937 by a dam constructed by the federal Works Progress Administration. By the late 1970s, sedimentation had largely ended recreational use of the lake. In July of 1989, the Lake Shady Restoration and Preservation Committee was established to work with federal, state, and local governmental agencies in an effort to restore the Lake.
Much of Southern Minnesota received extensive rain in late September 2010. This major storm system caused severe flooding throughout many communities in the area. With eventual rainfall totals surpassing seven inches in the Zumbro Watershed, the river swelled to historic levels. By noon on September 23, 2010, floodwaters had washed away the north embankment of the Oronoco Dam and had heavily damaged the bridge on Minnesota Avenue.
The Zumbro River Restoration Project received $4.1 million in funding from the State of Minnesota, Olmsted County, and the City of Oronoco. Construction began in November 2016 and ultimately transformed the lakebed into a public space that provides a variety of recreational opportunities. The dam was replaced by a rock arch rapids, the stream restored to natural meanders, and excess sediment was placed out of the floodway so it could not be washed downstream.
South Zumbro Stormwater and Capital Improvement Plan
Chester Heights Sewer District
The Chester Sewer District serves all properties in the Chester Heights Subdivision, the Village of Chester, and the Menard’s Subdivision. Sewage is pumped to the City of Rochester and treated at the Rochester Water Reclamation Plant. Olmsted County Public Works, Water Resources Division, oversees the administration of the Sewer District and contracts with Gopher Septic Services for its operation and maintenance.
Are set annually and are based on service costs.
Will be billed annually as a special assessment on the property tax statement on line #13.
New properties connecting to this sewer district are charged a one-time fee.
2021 Service Rates
Residential - $68.37/month
2 Residential units - $100.28/month
4 Residential units - $164.11/month
Small commercial - $101.68 (less than 5,000 gals/month)
Large commercial - $101.68 (more than 5,000 gals/month plus $5.56 per additional 1,000 gals)
Buildable lots with sewer stubbed in but no existing dwelling - $31.91/month
New sewer connection - $7,837.37
Disposable Wipes Clog Pipes - Do Not Flush!
If you are a Chester resident, please don't flush disposable wipes as they can cause sewer backups and additional maintenance costs.
Chester Heights Sewer District Advisory Board
The advisory board counsels the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners on operational and financial matters concerning the sewer district.
For information on requesting a hearing to appeal a notice of violation, or denial of request for exception/challenge, or a suspension or revocation of an issued license or permit, please visit the Olmsted County Attorney's webpage.
To report a problem with service or an emergency, please contact:
Gopher Septic Services
Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Natural Resource Block Grant Reports
If interested in a particular Water Report from Olmsted County please contact the Water Resources Coordinator at 507 328-7070
Lake Zumbro Joint Powers Board
Early Payoff of Deferred Special Assessments for Lake Zumbro Dredging Project
Some property owners in the Lake Zumbro Improvement District who received special assessments in the fall of 2018 in connection with the lake dredging project initially opted to defer payment of their special assessments for a period of 10 years with interest accruing on the unpaid balance until it was paid in full. Now some of those impacted property owners have indicated they wish to pay off those deferred assessments early and there has been some confusion about whether or not this would be permitted and if so, what those payoff terms would be.
After reviewing the minutes of the Lake Zumbro Joint Powers Board's meetings from fall 2018 and getting input from members of the Joint Powers Board and from the County Auditors for Olmsted and Wabasha Counties, early repayment of these deferred special assessments will be permitted. Property owners who wish to pursue this should note that special assessments (when included on the tax statement) are split between first and second half tax payments equally. This means, if the first half is not paid in a timely manner, then penalties will begin to accrue on May 16, and will continue to accrue until the first half taxes are paid in full. For the Lake Zumbro special assessments, this means that landowners will need to pay their annual special assessment along with their property taxes – one half with first-half property taxes, and the last half with the second half property taxes. If the affected property owners do this, they should avoid having to pay any penalties on the unpaid special assessment balance. The County Auditor for each county should be able to calculate a payoff amount for the special assessments owed for a particular year as well as a total payoff amount for the unpaid balance for all years since the assessment was first imposed, depending on where your property is located. You can reach the Olmsted County Auditor in the Property Records and Licensing Department at 507 328-7637. You can reach the Wabasha County Auditor's Office at 651 565-2648. Thank you.
Lake Zumbro Dredging Project Information
Lake Zumbro Dredging Project Special Assessment Information